Opinion: Give all the public equal access to records

Colorado Politics: The law that governs how Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests work in Colorado makes special, explicit mention of the press, i.e., they are treated separately from the general population. Though journalists fill a unique role — gathering and disseminating information is their full-time job — they should not get special treatment.

There have been a lot of rumors lately about a bill in the works in the legislature to make CORA requests free to journalists. This is problematic in my view for a number of reasons. Right now, the law for CORA requests is written such that the government agency you request records from has the right to charge you for staff time gathering and preparing the information you seek, and for any physical, paper copies of the records you request. There are maximums on these charges (25 cents per-page for paper; no more than cost for other records materials, and $33.58 per-hour for time beyond the first hour, which is free), but I can tell you from personal experience that the numbers pile up high and quick. I once got a CORA bill from Attorney General Weiser’s office of $2,700 to try and review emails he’d sent out to local law enforcement during COVID. These prices also adjust for inflation, and are due for an adjustment in a year. If the prices move like those of everything else lately, I shudder to think what Weiser’s $2,700 would jump to.

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